Bernie Sanders hasn't been challenged by fellow Democrats -- and if they won't do it, the race is over. That was the conclusion of a panel on Stephanie Ruhle's show this morning. So we might expert to see more direct confrontations.
Ruhle asked Jason Johnson, "If you're of the theory that President Trump wants to run against Bernie Sanders and if you're also of the theory that the number one priority for Democrats is to defeat Donald Trump, how do you solve for the fact that Bernie Sanders is doing as well as he is?"
"Number one is defeating Donald Trump, but you can't defeat him by messing with the process, making it unfair," Johnson said.
"If Bernie Sanders ends up winning, Bernie Sanders ends up winning. What's key, though, is if Bernie Sanders wins, you have to make sure he is a functional candidate. He would have to be able to get through a contested convention, and I don't think he will get 1990 (electoral votes). That is what people should think about. I don't believe there's a magical candidate that could go against him. To the degree you make the narrative 'we have to take out Bernie Sanders,' you feed into some of the worst elements of his own campaign and you inherently weaken who goes against him. This is an open race. Treating it like 'we have to take down Bernie Sanders,' that's ridiculous. I don't think that's fair to the democratic process."
"Isn't that the way campaigns work?" Ruhle said. "I am not saying you have to cheat, go outside the process, but isn't the way a campaign works or any race works, take out the guy in the lead?"
"Right, you have to take out the guy in the lead, but you have to have somebody to stop them based on their own message, not because there's inherent fear the person is headed to failure. That's the distinction. That's what Democrats need to think about. Who is the person everybody likes, not the person to kneecap Bernie Sanders. You can't kneecap Bernie Sanders. Nothing can stop him with his base," Johnson said.
"If you try, then you play into everything they want. Bernie Sanders' thing is 'I am a victim of these evil, terrible millionaires,' even though I am one, and the Democratic party is part of that cabal trying to stop me."
"They say 'listen, can't go after Bernie because they'll say we're cheating and they're gonna give it to him?' " Ruhle said, incredulous.
"If they're dumb enough. Mike Bloomberg went after Bernie Sanders the way you should be. You don't want a conversation of Medicare for All, it's 'this guy and his staff and organization and plan don't work.' That's how you run a campaign. Then rally people around you, not just going after Bernie Sanders. It is not going to work that way."
"Jason, why isn't Bloomberg doing it on TV, though?" Tim Miller said.
"His campaign manager was on earlier and said Mike needs time to get his legs under him, had a terrible debate. the race is functionally over in 12 days. I lived through this in 2016 trying to stop Donald Trump. Once Super Tuesday is finished, if there's a candidate with a delegate lead, they'll win the nomination. Michael Bloomberg is spending $300 million on ads. Spend 100 million of that educating people on Bernie Sanders' record, not saying be dirty or lie, but educate them, try to create alternative choice?
"Right now, Bloomberg is holding the race hostage while we wait to see how he does Super Tuesday. He did bad in the debate last night. If he does bad Super Tuesday, the race is over. His claim is he is in the race to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning. That was his gambit. But he is paving the way for just that. If he was running negative ads, if the establishment Democrats were getting behind the current delegate leader, Mayor Pete, who nobody is talking about because they're waiting for Bloomberg on Super Tuesday, maybe there would be a chance to stop Bernie.
"Right now, nobody is doing it. They're going to let him glide to the nomination if something doesn't change in the next 12 days."
Ruhle said Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey tweeted there was so much opposition research against Bernie Sanders, it could fill Trump's empty Foxconn facility in Wisconsin.
"You know who has the opposition research? President Trump. If these other Democrats aren't using it now, President Trump is going to be using it months from now. Do they need to change strategy?"
"Of course, Stephanie. And Trump is stockpiling money, hundreds of millions of dollars at the Republican National Committee they intend to use as soon as the Democrats have a presumptive nominee to help define the nominee for general election voters, especially in those states that Sanders as nominee would have to win, Michigan and Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. There's a real danger ahead."
That's right. You saw Mike Bloomberg's deer in the headlights look last night? Look for Bernie Sanders to recreate that moment in a debate with Trump if he doesn't face those attacks now.